Ex-IMF chief gets bail in sex assault case

A JUDGE agreed yesterday to free former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn from a New York City jail on the condition he post $1 million (almost €700,00) in bail and remain under house arrest, under the watch of armed guards, at a private apartment in Manhattan.

The 62-year-old banker and diplomat wore an expression of relief after Supreme Court Justice Michael J Obus announced his decision in a packed Manhattan courtroom. Later, he blew a kiss toward his wife.

The ruling didn’t free Strauss-Kahn immediately. Authorities need time to review and approve the security arrangements involved in his home detention, which lawyers said would be at an apartment rented by his wife. They did not disclose the location of the home.

Strauss-Kahn will also have to take out a $5 million insurance bond. It’s not believed the wealthy banker will have any problem meeting the financial conditions of his release from the Rikers Island jail complex on an island in the East River.

“He’s going back to Rikers tonight and we expect him to be released tomorrow,” said William Taylor, one of his attorneys.

His political career in shambles and his leadership of the IMF a memory, Strauss-Kahn was formally indicted at yesterday’s hearing on charges that he sexually abused a maid at a Manhattan hotel.

Prosecutors had opposed his release at his first bail hearing Monday, saying his wealth and international connections would make it easy for him to flee.

A prosecutor began yesterday’s hearing by announcing that a grand jury had found enough evidence for an indictment, a procedural step that elevates the seriousness of the charge.

Without it, authorities would have been unable to detain him for longer than a week.

“The proof against him is substantial. It is continuing to grow as the investigation continues,” said Assistant District Attorney John “Artie” McConnell. “We have a man who, by his own conduct in this case, has shown a propensity for impulsive criminal conduct.”

Strauss arrived for the hearing wearing a gray suit and an open blue shirt. As he entered, he gave a quick smile to his daughter and wife, the French television journalist Anne Sinclair, seated in the gallery.

Similar house arrest arrangements have been made for other high-profile defendants in the city, most notably Bernard Madoff, the Ponzi scheme mastermind who stole billions of dollars from his clients.

Strauss-Kahn resigned as managing director of the International Monetary Fund late Wednesday, saying he needed to focus on clearing his name.

He is accused of attacking a 32-year-old housekeeper Saturday afternoon at his Manhattan hotel suite. The West African immigrant told police he chased her down a hallway, forced her to perform oral sex and tried to remove her stockings.

In his resignation letter, released by the IMF executive board, Strauss-Kahn denied the allegations against him, but said he would quit to protect the institution.

The political wrangling over who will succeed Strauss-Kahn at the IMF already has begun. European officials, including Germany’s chancellor, the European Commission and France’s finance minister, have been arguing that his replacement should be European.

Some authorities from China and Brazil have said it is time to break Europe’s traditional dominance over the position and appoint someone from a developing nation. US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner has asked for an “open process,” without mentioning any specific candidates.

There is no indication yet when a decision will be made. But a meeting of the G-8 — a group of eight developed countries — takes place next week in the seaside resort of Deauville, France, and all the major decision-makers will be there.

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